Amanda walked into the tack room from the arena, pulling her dusty golden hair back from her face. She bent down and took a drink from the lukewarm water fountain by the door. She stood up, wiping glistening drops from the corners of her mouth as she looked out the window. Her heart leaped into her throat at what she saw, her sister Meganne was finally home for the summer. Trying not to seem too excited she opened the door and walked out into the blistering sauna that was June in southern Missouri. Meganne turned the key in the ignition and her sky blue pickup truck fell silent. Although it was not nearly as good as an F-150 it was within her price range when she went shopping for a car.
Meganne and Amanda walked into the office together, and then out into the main body of the stable. It was a simple setup, trail horses across the sandy indoor arena, pleasure horses on the left and brood mares and their foals on the right. Meganne inhaled deeply filling her lungs with the dusty scent of hay and horse manure; it was good to be home. She looked around, recognizing her favorite horses with a pat on the nose; the ones that had been there the longest. Goldie, the solid chestnut quarter horse, Ranger and Ratchet, almost identical paints, Three-socks the tallest in the stable, and finally Winchester whom she affectionately called Winnie. She had spent the last summer training him and felt a special connection to the yearling.
The horses turned to look at her, greetings written in the watery depths of their deep brown eyes. She glanced around one last time and turning to Amanda said, “I’m going out to the ridge, I’ll try to be back in time for supper.” She sprinted to the tack room and snatched Goldie’s forest green halter from the rack. Walking back down the aisle she strapped the chin strap on her riding helmet and fondly remembered when she had first learned to ride. She had been 10, older than most, standing in her small cowboy boots, staring up at the monstrous animal called Goldie. Then her dad walked out, “Are you ready sweetie?” he asked in a slightly amused tone. Meganne gulped and slowly nodded her head; her father swung her up onto the horse and grabbed the lead rope. He led her around the arena, slowly at first then faster and faster until she was laughing with joy. “I never want to get down Daddy!” she said, it had been as easy as learning to ride a bike and she’d gotten better ever since. As she came out of her reverie she noticed that she was stopped in front of Goldie’s stall; she opened the creaky wooden door and walked inside.
“Hi baby, I missed you” she said, kissing him on his velvety nose. She slipped the halter over his russet head, she led him outside to the arena, and then carefully climbing the bars of the red farm gate she catapulted herself onto his broad bare back. She settled in thinking that anyone who hasn’t galloped across a sunlit field full of wildflowers in full bloom is deprived. Suddenly she kicked Goldie into a trot as they headed for the coolness of the woods at the edge of the pasture. They reached the trees and walked for a while under the spreading limbs relishing the coolness of the shade. Splashing through a creek on the way to the ridge they walked through a field of knee-high prairie grasses. Smiling Meganne leaned down to pick one, she stuck it into her mouth and grimaced at the bitter taste it left on her tongue, she threw it aside and picked another. This time she was in luck, her reward was the sweet honey-tasting nectar. She closed her eyes an immense smile emerging as she grinned in pure bliss.
She then remembered promising to try to be home in time for dinner, frantic she glanced at her wrist wondering why she had decided to take her watch off in the first place. Oh well, she decided to ride for a few more minutes before heading back. She kicked Goldie into a gallop and squeezing her knees tightly lay back on his hindquarters and spread her arms. When she sat up she noticed a fallen oak tree a few hundred yards away, she promptly steered him in that direction, laughing in anticipation. As the log loomed larger she grabbed fistfuls of mane with both hands and hunched down like a jockey. Peeking down his neck to see she waited, then all of a sudden they were off the ground, flying through the air for a few blissful seconds before they hit the ground with a jolt.
She turned Goldie around, heading for the barn and tried to wipe the dirt off the front of her shirt. Quickly she looked around, and then urged Goldie into a canter, realizing that darkness was falling. The barn came into view just as the sun sand below the horizon, casting a golden tinge on everything. She turned her face to the sky and gasped, the sunset was one of the most beautiful she had ever seen. The sky looked like a massive painting of violet, blue, and pink, smeared across the canvas of the sky. She walked Goldie around in the arena for a few minutes to cool him down and slipped down his side to the hard-packed earth below. Meganne led him to his stall where he promptly started devouring his bran mash.
She took his halter off and remembered the night she confided the deepest desires of her heart to her mother. She said, “I wish I could jump on a horse and ride, and ride, and never get off Mommy.” Ever since then she had ridden at every opportunity
and was around horses whenever she got the chance. She hugged Goldie and hung the halter back in the tack room and started walking up the hill to the house. As she walked she smoothed her hair down hoping it didn’t look too windblown then glanced down at her shirt and groaned. It was hopelessly soiled with sweat, dirt, horse spit and clumps of bran mash sticking on in little clumps. Oh well, mom would understand, it was my first day back after all. Just then she passed Amanda coming down the driveway to get the mail “I already got it” she said then asked her sister “Do I have horse butt (the hair that gets ground into your jeans in the shape of the horse’s back when you ride bareback)?” She turned around as Amanda shined the flashlight at her but. “Yep.” Amanda replied. I sighed. They finished walking up the driveway together and strode inside just as the smell of medium rare steaks, still sizzling hot from the oven wafted through the door and into the living room. Right then Meganne decided that this was going to be the best summer of her life, and it was.